I have written many times before about how important I think a theory of change is when you are developing your advocacy campaign. And while that may sound complex, it can be as simple as just developing a ‘so that’ chain of events. Using the words ‘so that’ to show how your actions are going to help your campaign take off, build momentum and deliver impact.
When I am running training courses, I am also keen to use the ‘but why’ technique. Again this is an incredibly simple tool to get to the root cause of a problem.
You start with your problem driving your campaign and ask ‘but why’ is this a problem? And you keep asking ‘but why’ until you get to the real cause of the problem. This simple tool, while it can be irritating, can be a great way to ensure that you avoid focussing on the superficial causes to your problem and that your campaign can tackle the real issues.
I was running a training session for refugee supporting NGOs in South Africa a few months ago when a participant asked what you should do if the answer to one of our ‘but why’ questions was ‘maybe’. I thought that this was a great question. If your answer is maybe, then it shows that you do not really know and that you need more research and evidence before you can launch your campaign. The ‘but why’ technique can be a great way to check if you are ready to launch your campaign.
And it is so much better to find out that you don’t really know the answer to ‘but why’ in private as I have found that politicians and journalists are very skilled in asking the ‘but why’ question. Time spent on this exercise is priceless as part of your initial campaign planning.
It is also a great exercise to do with your campaign team and to repeat at regular intervals using any new campaign intelligence.
But it was only when I was running a training course for Christian Aid in Haiti last month that I really began to see the connection between ‘so that’ and ‘but why’. Once we had covered these two tools, one participant offered the following insight: “these tools are like a campaigning staircase. You need to go down the staircase to find out why you are in this position and to do that you ask ‘but why’? But you also need to go up the staircase to find out where you are going with your campaign and to do that you repeat ‘so that’.
I loved that insight – these two tools allow you to move up and down the campaigning staircase. Maybe something to think about next time you are doing some campaign planning?